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The Mudrarakshasa ("The Signet of the Minister") is a historical play in Sanskrit by Vishakhadatta that narrates the ascent of the king Chandragupta Maurya (r. 322BC - 298BC) to power in India.

Mudrarakshasa is dated variously from the late 4th century[1] to the 8th century.[2]


Chanakya's pact with lord of the Himalayas, Parvateshwar, from the Northwest ensures his victory over Nanda.

Parvateshwar and Chandragupta plan to divide up the old possessions of Nanda Empire. Next, Parvateshwara dies poisoned by Nanda's daughter and his son Malayaketu succeeds him. Malayaketu, together with Rakshasa, the last minister of Nanda, demands the inheritance of all the old territories of the Nanda.

The drama begins when Malayaketu and his allies (the kings of Persia, Sindh and Kashmir) are poised to attack Pataliputra (present day Patna), the capital of Chandragupta.

The outcome arrives when Chanakya, by the use of guile, manages to attract Rakshasa to the Maurya side, thus undoing the coalition of Malayaketu.

The historical authenticity of the Mudrarakshasa is somewhat supported by the description of this period of history in Classical Hellenistic sources: the violent rule of the Nanda, the usurpation of Chandragupta, the formation of the Maurya Empire.


Dhundiraja, the author of Jataka Bharanam, had written a commentary on Mudrarakshasa.


There is a Tamil version based on the Sanskrit play[3] and Keshavlal Dhruv translated the original into Gujarati as Mel ni Mudrika (1889).

The later episodes of the TV series Chanakya were based mostly on the Mudrarakshasa.

A film in Sanskrit was made in 2006 by Manish K. Mokshagundam, using the same plot as the play but in a modern setting.[4]

The play was performed (as Rakshasa's Ring) by students of the Missouri Southern State University's theatre program in November 2002.[5]



  1. ^ Manohar Laxman Varadpande (1 September 2005). History Of Indian Theatre. Abhinav Publications. pp. 223–. ISBN 978-81-7017-430-1. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Upinder Singh (1 September 2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Viśākhadatta; S. M. Natesa Sastri (1885), Mudrarakshasam: A tale in Tamil founded on the Sanskrit drama, Madras School Book and Vernacular Literature Society 
  4. ^ Film promo
  5. ^ The India Semester at MSSU